Sunday, 18 August 2013

Omnishambles Update 15

Here we are slap bang in the middle of the silly season, but the TR omnishambles rumbles on and so a further update is necessary. I know it must be very tedious for any remaining general interest readers wanting to know about probation practice, but as was said in 1939, 'normal service will resume upon cessation of hostilities'.

A number of people have picked up on the language that was contained in the official MoJ press release last week announcing the two senior appointments to the nascent National Probation Service. Obviously prepared by enthusiastic media-types who often either get the facts wrong or are sloppy in the use of language, after naming the two appointees, it went on to say:-    

They will lead a team of the country’s top offender managers, working with around 30,000 offenders each year who pose a high-risk of serious harm to the public.

Oh dear, 'top offender managers' - in that one sloppy ill-thought-out use of the term it both condemns the remaining 70% of OM's as not being 'top' and unwittingly belies the thinking down there at MoJ/NOMS HQ. They are treating probation with complete disdain at the moment and this is but just one small example. I notice from twitter that Sarah Billiald intends to 'bring the matter up with the TR comms team', but at least London Napo have gone to the extent of writing a letter to the minister demanding an apology:-

Dear Mr Wright,

A press release was issued by the Ministry of Justice on Friday 9th August 2013 announcing the appointments of Mike Maiden and Sarah Payne as heads of the new National Probation Service. 

I am sure you are in no doubt about the extent to which NAPO opposes your proposals to abolish Probation Trusts and replace them with a greatly reduced National Probation Service while putting out to competitive tender the vast majority of the work that trusts currently undertake. 

If NAPO and other campaigning organisations are unable to make you see sense, and your proposals for the transformation of rehabilitation services are forced upon us, it is estimated that only 30% of existing staff will continue to work in the public sector. The rest will be working for other providers, as yet to be determined. 

The press release, which gave details of Mr Maiden and Ms Payne’s new responsibilities, stated that: 

“They will lead a team of the country’s top offender managers, working with around 30,000 offenders each year who pose a high-risk of serious harm to the public.” 

You have added insult to injury by implying that those offender managers who will not be working in the public sector, many of whom will be my members, will be not be “top offender managers.”   

I really want  to ask you to reconsider your proposals in total but failing that I invite you to consider apologising immediately to those of my members  who, by your definition, are not “top offender managers.” 

Yours sincerely 

Pat Waterman 

Talking of Sarah Billiald, it would seem that she is no longer CEO of the Kent Probation Trust having decided to step aside in order to lead a staff mutual covering Kent and Surrey and Sussex. I presume this move now effectively precludes her being able to speak on behalf of the Probation Chief's Association? Not that we'd have noticed in recent weeks, but with Sue Hall seemingly also involved in the formation of a mutual, does anyone now speak for the PCA?

On the subject of silence, I wonder when we might expect to hear something from Tania Bassett, Napo's new press, parliament and campaign person?

Meanwhile it's interesting to note that MoJ/NOMS management are still refusing to release the risk register and have turned down a Freedom of Information request on the grounds that the omnishambles is still in the design stage. This, despite two key staff appointments having been made and the draft Community Rehabilitation Company's Memorandum and Articles of Association being published:-   

With regard to the risk register for the Rehabilitation Programme, I can confirm that the Department holds the information you have requested. Some of the information contained within this document is, however, exempt from disclosure.

We are not obliged to provide information if it relates to the formulation of government policy. In this case, the information relates to the development of government policy (section 35 (1) (a) of the Act).

In line with the terms of this exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, we have considered whether it would be in the public interest for us to provide you with the information, despite the exemption being applicable. In this case, we have concluded that the public interest favours withholding the majority of the information.
I sincerely hope an appeal is being formulated.

I'm grateful to Mike for pointing me in the direction of a piece written by John Steele the Chair of Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust and published in the bumper Spring edition of the Probation Association's Interface magazine. He basically says the time for discussion is over and it's up to Trust Board's to deliver what ever the government wants. So, I guess no great surprise that his response to Thursday's 'Deafening Silence' post says what it does, but at least he took the trouble to say it and spread the message to a wider audience. We know where we stand as far as independent Trust Boards are concerned - they just do what they're told by government apparently.  


  1. Am I right in thinking therefore, that if Sarah Billiald has stepped aside as CEO in order to lead the staff mutual for K,S & S, that she is no longer being paid from the public purse? Good for her, if so. There are far too many ACO' s etc attending meetings during working time ref setting up a Mutual, rather than doing what they are contractually paid for.

    1. A very good question, but I don't know the answer. In this omnishambles, anything seems to be possible and wouldn't surprise me. I went into an office the other day and was shown a brand new IT suite for clients - but I pointed out the office might not exist in 18 months time!

    2. Netnipper: According to the Kent website SB is the 'Substantive Chief Executive currently leading on commercial bid for rehabilitation services' and there is an Interim CEO. Sounds to me she is still on the public payroll. This is Fantasy Probation, pick your teams, keep collecting public funds and demonstrate your commercial skills on the Grayling catwalk.

  2. TheUrbaneGorilla18 August 2013 at 18:02

    Presumably the privateers will have a view (and no doubt some influence) at the prospect of being saddled with the 70% less-than-top offender managers. There must be some trite management-speak term for "less-than-top" -a set of Bullshit Bingo cards for the best suggestion.

    1. aspirational? keen and eager? young, enthusiastic? unfettered, flexible, keen to learn? open-minded, responsive, diverse? Ok I've had a drink.

    2. TheUrbaneGorilla18 August 2013 at 20:51

      You've earned a swift half Jim - defending probation now that NAPO's gone AWOL. You're clearly "at the top of your game" and "up to speed" with your "service orientated" "deep dive" "cutting edge" "customer facing" "market window". I just hope you don't "drop the ball" and maintain your "30,000 feet view" in "real time" and that your efforts protect the "low hanging fruit" to "maintain best practice" with your "target audience". OK - I've obviously had two drinks. Well - it is Sunday - and I want to be "first to market" tomorrow morning to "walk the talk" and "touch base" to "optimize a win-win situation".

    3. I followed most of that (a fact which is alarming in itself), but not heard of "30,000 feet view" before.

      I'd plump for "energetic" as the mot juste for "less than top" - sounds positive but is essentially meaningless, and energy can be wasted or employed in entirely the wrong directions.

    4. Tim,

      A good one - possibly even better if coupled with 'enthusiastic'? That paints quite a picture in my mind - especially, as you say, if pointed in entirely the wrong direction lol.

    5. TheUrbaneGorilla19 August 2013 at 22:04

      I've always taken "30,000 feet view" as an analogy for being able to see lots and lots from an elevated position. Isn't 30,000 feet the cruising altitude for many long haul flights - nice view if it's not cloudy. This term probably links with the well-known "seagull" school of management - flies around, lots of flapping, makes lots of noise and shits on everyone.

  3. Yes, and some SPO's, willing to climb the greasy pole, but not shrewd, or bright enough to follow Mr Grayling's maniacal mission, for fear they would be found out....are now looking to extend their CV's in other ways - surprisingly some SPO's are asking to do SDR's, not to lighten the load, but as a flat rate report; thereby, improving their future prospects, leeching onto those who know how to write such documents, asking for advice and then, as if by magic being in two places at once - i.e. being paid to write a PSR at HMP local, whilst being paid for being the only available SPO available to an entire office. I've said it before, no brains, no dignity, no integrity and no bottle. For all their detached disdain for the Probation Service, those managers going upward in this new world, are likely to be the really ruthless and ambitious one's, who from experience are the most dangerous.

  4. TheUrbaneGorilla,

    ROFL - very good! In fact so good I'm raising another glass.

  5. Thank you for the concerns I received from your readers yesterday and a short reply to some of the issues raised. No, I don't work in London, West Yorkshire. My collegues are very supportive, some in the same position as myself but not with such aggressive "setting up to fail" targets we used to ask the magistrates to avoid when sentencing. Reading todays blog I wonder if my new teams workload of 85+ has been born out of some of the things said like where the hell have all the front line staff gone exactly for some of us to have ended up with such high case loads! Message for Mr Grayling your top offender managers are here doing just that managing offenders on behalf of the courts, victims and the communities they live in. Don't be fooled by the sycophants there is a lot at stake here and those you are listening to have not been near service users for decades.

    1. Casandra,

      Thanks for getting back to us and hope all goes well for the future. Also good to hear you have supportive colleagues.